Living Longer By Living Better

February 20, 2013 / Michael M. Siegel, MD


The average lifespan in the US has increased by three decades over the past century, in large part due to clean water, routine immunizations, ample food supplies as well as the improvement in people’s socioeconomic status. But there are additional steps we can take to increase the length of our lives.

I focus below on four factors that will not only help you live longer, but that can also improve your quality of life as you age.

  • Lifestyle: Eating right and routine exercise will not only benefit your body, but also your mind. Individuals who routinely exercise (this includes walking) are generally able to better maintain their weight as well as be more upbeat based on chemicals generated during their workout which act as anti-depressants.
  • Marriage: Happily married couples tend to live longer than unwed individuals; married men live about 10 years longer than single men and married women live about 5 years longer.
  • Dogs and cats: Although studies are not conclusive, dogs and cats may prolong your life. They can provide great companionship and a dog or cat can be great stress relievers; when coming home after a hard day at work, that warm, fury body sitting next to you can help you’re your tension and frustrations disappear. Dogs also help get you out of the house for walks. 
  • Sleep: Information is still developing about the relationship of sleep to our life span, but studies suggest that less than an average of seven to eight hours of sleep per night raise the chances of an early demise in men and women by 26% and 21% respectively. In a study out of Harvard, older individuals who took a thirty minute midday nap at least three times/week had a 37% less chance of dying from a heart attack or other disease. Naps can reduce stress and improve health! Obviously, there are many other factors that influence our lifespan, but I hope these tips gave you some ideas for lifestyle changes that can keep you alive and happy longer!